Solstice reflections

Emotional management, Floristry, Grief

I wish I knew how to live well. By well, I mean with enthusiasm. I am always tired and lacking energy, and I don’t know if that’s a symptom or a cause.
I wish I could see what other people see when they appear so enthusiastic about life, about their families, and their jobs and their every dayness. I know that’s not a word because it comes up with a spell checker line under it but I like it as a word. It conveys what I mean. Dayness meaning waking up and thinking ‘how am I going to get through this one?’
Objectively there is no difference in my day and anyone else’s day. It’s the 21st of December and its going to be the longest day of the year, and some people will be celebrating it in lieu of Christmas which is now only four days away. Temperatures will start to climb again. Holiday catch ups, taking kids swimming, walking the dog.
I wake and think of how I am going to fill the emptiness.
Following my recent flirtation with suicide, this is mostly how I feel. I can, and do, fill the emptiness with a lot of shopping which is why I am busting out the seams of this house. Just this week I have probably spent a thousand dollars on books. This is, even for me, excessive.
They are mostly gardening and art books, although I did buy two much more academic books. They felt like duty purchases. Not quite. I was excited about the one called The Language of Plants but then I started to read it and the academic language made my heart sink.
I keep thinking of ways to represent my emotions around the PhD and academia in paper. That last sentence gave me an idea. A heart chained to an anchor. I really want to do the PhD acronym, permanent head destruction. A model of my head and shoulders in paper mache but with the top not filled in and out of that comes tendrils of shredded paper. I want to do my wrist and the knife.
God my body hurts today. Physio and massage yesterday to help my hip. But I feel like I have been mashed up. I spent most of the last few days on the verge of crying because I was in pain physically and in pain from the pain. I realized that if I feel like this so frequently then the idea of a rural farm based life is a bit ridiculous. I can’t bend well, I can’t really dig. It’s ridiculous to assume that I can farm flowers with these two basic problems. Plus I can’t expose myself to that much sun. So unless there’s a miracle partner out there, business or otherwise, I am sunk.
Oh yeah, that’s right. His name was John.
So this chronic back pain which has been going on now since 2008 kills a long held dream. I can’t have the big country garden and farm that I have wanted all my adult life and I can’t do my fall back position, floristry, either because I can’t stand for great lengths of time. Thank you PhD.
I have been trying to tell people that I have lost a cherished dream and everyone just brushes over it, even those who are usually quite aware and sensitive. I do not seem able to convey to them in a way that they understand just how devastating this is emotionally. How much I feel as if I have been struck by a natural disaster, a cyclone perhaps, or a wildfire. No one perceives this about me though. In an actual cyclone it’s easy to see the trees uprooted and the roofs torn away exposing the delicacy of people’s lives, and as a community we respond. But I look well and healthy and my words do not get through to the few I trust.

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So….

Emotional management

If you get to the point of holding the kitchen knife against your wrist and tracing all your visible veins but not actually cutting into yourself, is that a suicide attempt?

On floristry and the meaning of work

Diabetes, employment, Floristry, Work
altar at home

Altar piece, with delphiniums, carnations, roses, nigella and foraged foliage and grasses. Photo by the author.

As I woke reluctantly this morning, I saw one of the pieces I made for my show night sitting on the chest of jarrah drawers that I inherited from my Nan. It made me smile, a deep, from the gut kind of smile.  In floristry speak it’s a vegetative symmetrical arrangement, which means to the rest of us that it looks like a round garden. Like it has grown out of the container I’ve put it in.

I feel both sad and glad that floristry is over. I have passed, and I am now a fully qualified floristry assistant. An unemployed one though…

Unlike the PhD which I regularly regret doing, I have no regrets about this course. No regrets about the time and the money and the lost income spent pursuing it. This, I think, is a good sign. I’m sorry that I will not be showing up regularly to class each week with my buckets and my hopes, and enjoying the company of the many wonderful women that I met. Given that Cert 4 is not available in Canberra, I had hoped that I would be able to repeat but it seems that I will not be able to do so. Admin and rules and all that clap trap.

So I am a bit stuck now.

I haven’t been able to get a job and my two formal job interviews so far have been extremely bruising. I’m also worried about my body. I seem to wake up each morning feeling like I have a hangover, and while I can be a big drinker, hangovers only last a day. This week I’ve had a really good massage and been to Pilates and I should be feeling fabulous. Instead I feel like I’m an old tea bag, wrung out and of not much use to anyone. So it’s bad that I should feel like this generally but if I want to be a florist, it’s terrible.

Floristry is so physical. And I took it up because it is so physical, I need physical because of the diabetes. But at the same time I am afraid that if I was employed as a florist and I keep feeling like this, what’s it going to do to me? How do you know what is physically normal when you can’t get inside someone else’s skin?

Commercial floristry is fast paced, apparently cut throat and most of the people I’ve met in an employee/employer context haven’t been all that nice. I might be good at flowers (always with room for improvement of course) but I’m not fast, I abhor this commercial context and my life is far too precious to hang out with arseholes. What to do? Who wants a diabetic florist with a dicky back and anxiety issues?

Career plan D?

employment, Floristry, PhD, Stress, Work

There is one good thing about unemployment.

It’s the fact that when you spent the night alternating between crying and getting drunk because another interview/job trial flipped you over the edge, you can simply crawl into bed and stay there.

When I dreamt that my kitchen exploded recently I was fairly sure a meltdown was on the way.  Well, here it is.  Obviously, meltdowns involve long term baggage and the precitating event is just that.  Nevertheless it was horrible.  I don’t think they meant it to be horrible, but it was.  Four hours of it.  The only saving grace of it is that I got paid.

They were very particular, even down to how the buckets had to be filled.  I thought their method was more inefficient, but I didn’t say so.  One of the women has no filter.  She might not have said ‘God that’s awful’ but her face did.  She undid everything I did and remade it.  Not that they gave me a demonstration first, just showed me a picture and said do that.  One was a posy in a pot which had paper around it in the picture, so I wrapped it like a bouquet and put it in the pot only have it all ripped off and redone.  Pot, with paper pushed in and then filled with water.  WTF?  I got into trouble with her for making the boss angry but I have absolutely no idea why.

I walked away from that job trial feeling utterly incompetent and like I never want to set foot inside a florists ever again.  Or that I am capable of handling a retail environment.  Which would be fine except for the fact that I am no longer getting interviews for work in my other areas.  I am totally baffled by this.  And I’ve asked for feedback and what you get is total buraucratic dribble that is not remotely helpful.

All dogged by the green eyed monster which is directed toward my friend.  She’s not even graduated with her PhD and she’s been offered not one but two lectureships and won a huge research grant.  She’s had the luck I hoped for myself post PhD.  It either works for you, or it’s a career killer.

so here I am faintly dead and career plan c (floristry) in tatters around me.  Career plan D?  At this rate I’ll be scrubbing the loos at the mall.

 

On being a student florist

employment, Floristry, PhD, Stress

I was heard to mutter, as I left class this evening, that doing a PhD is easier than becoming a florist.   Correction.   A floristry assistant.  Those who were remained in the class thought I was being melodramatic and anxious about my paid trial for a job tomorrow.  This is partly true, but I meant my comment seriously.

IMG_1183

Bouquet with delphiniums, green carnations, white rose and some very mixed foliage. Photo by the author.

Starting over in any new field is faintly terrifying.  Most of the time I handle this with aplomb, but not currently.  I’ve got the full trifecta happening.  Job hunting, final assessment, and PMT.  These things should never happen in a sentence, let alone an actual real human being’s life.  The worst thing is that knowing it’s your hormones fucking you round doesn’t make them stop fucking you round.

The bouquet above is one of this evenings efforts practicing for our grad show.  In addition to this, we also have to display a hair piece, corsage, buttonholes and table centrepiece.  It’s OK.  I can do it.  But I would seriously find it easier to sit down and write several thousand words on, say the history of Australian policies on native vegetation protection than it is to pull this off.  If you’ve been accepted into a PhD it means you’ve already attained a high level of skill with words and concepts.  This is completely useless in floristry, because you can’t write a breathtakingly beautiful bouquet into existence.

Floristry is more than learning a new language or discipline.  It’s all very well to learn colour theory, but an entirely different process to pull it off in practice.  Flowers are real.  They have likes and dislikes, and they’re not shy about them.  I thought that silvery olive foliage would be a brilliant choice for this bouquet, but actually when it came to it, it was stiff, ungainly and ugly.  I threw most of it in the bin.  Earlier today I tried a vertical parallel arrangement, which I’d missed somehow through the year.  You’d think that grouped flowers in lines would be easy.  It’s not.  And I have the photo which shouldn’t be shared to prove it.

Let me deconstruct this bouquet in the way that I might pull apart an chapter or an essay.  What I have done well is the colour.  Soft green, muted blues, touches of silver and plenty of foliage is a combination that works well.  It gets a tick on our brief for muted and gentle colours.  It is quite soft, romantic and unstructured. But, the fern is too prominent, as is the rice flower.  There should be a balancing third piece.  I’ve left the roses too deep.  More eryngium more evenly placed.  Should I include some wired ageratum?  Green bells?  And so on…

I’m worried that my anonymous assessor will not perceive the story behind the contrast of this bouquet and my chosen wedding dress.  I’ve chosen a very unadorned thirties style sleek silk satin number.

IMG_0803

Sleek dress, and an bouquet that is the exact opposite.  Together, I hope they will make an understandable unity.

Meanwhile, the only sensible option is sleep.

 

Techno baby steps

Emotional management, Floristry, Work

A tiny amount of progress has been made.

My fledgling business now has an email.  Although I am in full on doubt mode again following what I made in class last night.  We were practicing A-line designs, and I started to let that nasty inner perfectionist pipe up.

I’m not particularly happy with either of them.   But of course I am comparing myself to my teacher’s demonstration last night and she has 20 years experience in some of the most prestigious venues in Canberra.  More practice…and less judgement.  If someone received either one of these, I imagine they would still be delighted.

Onwards…now it’s a decision between going with Facebook or instagram so that there is a visual address on this simple little business card project.

Peace and kindness to you all.

Business card blues

employment, Floristry, Home, photography, Work

Dear goddess, I just want to be a florist, not a business woman.

It’s lovely that all three people I made bouquets for this week wanted my business card, which I, of course, don’t have.  But I got the message and went investigating last night.

Now I’m in a maelstrom of technology so it seems.  For the record, I am utter crap with technology.  For emphasis, think how Rik Mayall would have said that in The Young Ones.  The world has gone online and I am being dragged kicking and screaming into it like a severely recalcitrant toddler.

Given that floristry is a visual art, customers must be able to see what you make online.  So I have to have some kind of online presence but in what form?

Perhaps I’d be a little more open minded if that large company named after a fruit had fixed the problem that arose some years ago instead of making me sign a thing saying I’d never back up to the cloud.  Which has left me with severely outdated operating systems so I can’t even download an app.

I’d rather just go and work for a florist part time initially, but that’s proving difficult to manifest.  So I’m being forced into self employment before I am ready.  I don’t want to work from home because, as I learnt last week, my space is unsuitable and I don’t have a fridge, and coming into summer, that latter item is essential.

What to do?  What to do?

 

What I learnt from my first wedding

Floristry, Uncategorized, Work

I’ve passed a milestone, two actually.

I won my category in my first floral competition, and I’ve done my first wedding. It seems that I am a florist, even if it is still a few weeks to graduation.

As I’ve been stumbling through my life I have read countless self help and popular psychology books, trying to make sense of it all. Many of those books said things like this:
If you find your passion everything will fall into place.
The stress won’t matter so much, or
You’ll lose yourself in it.

I’m relieved to say that there is a shred of truth to such assertions. Perhaps it only seems like a shred as it was my first wedding, and I can only hope that with experience will come calm.

Mistakes were definitely made. The supplier didn’t deliver two thirds of my foliage, the red roses shattered as I unwrapped them and the proteas were not the variety or quantity I’d ordered. I didn’t have enough buckets. The buttonholes were not were my finest work, but the wedding arch turned out sensationally and the bride loved her bouquet. I loved her bouquet, and it went together so easily that I feel I may have had a little divine help. I was expecting to have to make it several times but it came together on the first go. Minor tweaking only. I was on time, on budget and my clients were happy. Success.

I had several moments of wracking anxiety. The first was post buttonhole when I texted my sister and my floristry friend something with lots of swear words and capital letters, and my friend gallantly drove all the way up from the south coast to help me out. Thank you Linda. The second was at midnight on Friday when I looked at the photos I’d taken and freaked out at all the gaps. The third was driving to the site, when I had to employ a useful breathing technique to slow my heart rate down to a more pleasant rate. Then when it was all done, after I’d handed the container of rose petals to the bride’s brother, I realised that I loved it. Even with the anxiety and the crippling thoughts of ‘Will it be good enough?’

Will I do it again? Absolutely. Just not in my house.

Seasonality

Uncategorized

Here I am at the tail end of winter and early spring,which is possibly the hardest time of year in which to practice seasonality of bloom.  While I’d never choose to get married in August, my recent walks convince me that it would be possible to have a small and intimate wedding using only local blooms.

Canberra is clothed in the gold of acacia right now, and the ornamental plums and cherries are also coming out.  I love the contrast of the yellow with that pink.  I’ve echoed both colours with the pink tinged buds of Viburnum tinus and Papaver naudicale.    Both are from my garden.  Gumnuts and a contrast of blue flowering rosemary completes the idea.  A generous use of foliage would create a wonderful bouquet.

Genuine seasonality seems possible in all seasons.  But it probably requires us to be satisfied with small delicate arrangements rather than the giant arrangements we see in wedding magazines.  Bounty comes later with warmer weather.

End of term approaches

creativity, Floristry, PhD, Roses

It’s the downhill run to the end of term and I confess to being a very tired little bunny. Between the book contract, two part time jobs and full time study since January, all I want to do is take long naps with the Iron Paw and watch 70s sci fi repeats.  Perhaps then I might find the whatever-it-is I need to care about the flowers again.

in the interim, samples of class assignments.

Clockwise from the top left…

My take on a hamper, called ‘How to survive your PhD submission’. This is what some kind soul needed to give me about three weeks out from submitting.  It’s got appropriately dark and moody flowers along with anti inflammatories and painkillers, because you back or your neck or your wrists will have gone out in protest.  Rescue remedy and vodka to deal with the panic.  Couscous, chocolate and other forms of carbs.  A memory stick because you can NEVER have too many back ups and finally, a novel, as a gentle reminder that one day before you die, you will learn to read for pleasure again.

A bridal bouquet with buttonhole and corsage in purples, a practice run for a bride who has since changed her mind about the colour scheme.

A floral response to a place, the heritage listed University House at ANU.  The recycled cake tin echoes the lean times of the post war era, and the placement of the flowers echoes the traditional university enclosed college transplanted to the Australian landscape.

An ‘alternative’ bridal bouquet.  Built on a structure of kitchen implements, it is entirely edible with roses, lavender, brussel sprouts, spring onions and a variety of herbs like bay, rosemary and curry plant.  The bride got the sieve and the bridesmaid carries the spatula.

My task for next semester? To get better at photographing my work…